THE European Union (EU) removed the Philippines from its “priority” counterfeit watchlist, even if it noted that intellectual property (IP) protection in the country has not improved.

The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) said in a statement that this is the first time the Philippines has been delisted from a priority category. The country had been downgraded to “Priority 3” — or the countries of least concern — in 2015.

In its report released on Jan. 8, the European Commission said it will closely monitor the situation in the Philippines and countries like Israel, Morocco, South Africa, Switzerland and United Arab Emirates where IP enforcement is a concern.

“The Philippines was removed from the priority list and included in the group of countries, which need to be closely monitored. This is due to the very few complaints received from stakeholders and the increase in the relative importance of other countries for EU right holders,” the Commission said.

However, the European Commission acknowledged that the situation in the Philippines “has not improved over the years,” citing studies by the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

“According to the EUIPO-OECD studies on Mapping the Real Routes of Trade in Fake Goods (2017), on Trends in Trade in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods (2019) and on Why do countries export fakes? (2018), the Philippines has remained an important country of origin of counterfeit goods destined for the EU in a number of product categories such as leather articles, handbags, pharmaceuticals, footwear, games, toys and sport equipment,” the Commission said.

Another EUIPO-OECD study also showed the Philippines is a top source of small parcel trade in fake jewelry.

IPOPHL Officer-in-Charge Director General Teodoro C. Pascua disputed the European Commission’s claims, saying the studies used a single set of data.

“The data used even dates back to 2011 to 2013. Several actions on improving IPR enforcement have been made since then,” Mr. Pascua said in a statement.

Although the 2019 study aimed to recalibrate the findings with updated data and enhanced methodology, he noted the findings were presented in ways that make them unsuitable for comparison.

“The first study assessed provenance economies on a per-sector basis and ranked them on their likelihood of being either a fake-goods producer or transit point for counterfeit trade while the latter ranked the likelihood of an economy in being a provenance economy overall,” Mr. Pascua said.

Mr. Pascua added that IPOPHL has initiated efforts to fast-track decision making for IP cases, after the European Commission raised concerns in its 2018 report. IPOPHL collaborated with the judiciary to revise the Special Rules on IP for Litigation.

“We expect that once IPOPHL’s efforts in the last quarter of 2019 are factored in, including the manifold projects and programs we intend to take in the next few years, the European Commission will give a more positive evaluation of the Philippines in its next report,” he said. — Jenina P. Ibañez